Rear end crashes. MRJ Baldock, AD Long, VL Lindsay, AJ McLean

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1 Rear end crashes MRJ Baldock, AD Long, VL Lindsay, AJ McLean CASR REPORT SERIES CASR018 September 2005

2 Report documentation REPORT NO. DATE PAGES ISBN ISSN CASR018 September TITLE Rear end crashes AUTHORS MRJ Baldock, AD Long, VL Lindsay, AJ McLean PERFORMING ORGANISATION Centre for Automotive Safety Research The University of Adelaide South Australia 5005 AUSTRALIA SPONSORED BY Motor Accident Commission GPO Box 1045 Adelaide SA 5001 AUSTRALIA AVAILABLE FROM Centre for Automotive Safety Research ABSTRACT Due to the common occurrence of rear end collisions in South Australia, and the costliness of Compulsory Third Party (CTP) claims associated with them, a study was undertaken into the nature of, and possible countermeasures for, rear end collisions. This study included an analysis of five years of police-reported crash data, an analysis of a sample of rear end crashes investigated as part of the CASR metropolitan in-depth crash study, and a literature review concerned with countermeasures for rear end crashes. The most common factors contributing to these types of crashes are the lack of protection for right turning vehicles and the inadequate allocation of attention by drivers to the driving task. Countermeasures are available for both of these contributing factors. Providing greater protection for right turning vehicles requires road-based countermeasures, while the most promising countermeasure for inadequate allocation of attention is the installation in vehicles of collision avoidance systems. However, the latter countermeasure will only be available after further testing and refinement of current prototype systems. KEYWORDS Rear end collision, Accident investigation, Accident countermeasure, Data analysis, Literature review The University of Adelaide 2005 The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Adelaide or the sponsoring organisation

3 Summary Due to the common occurrence of rear end collisions in South Australia, and the costliness of Compulsory Third Party (CTP) claims associated with them, a study was undertaken into the nature of, and possible countermeasures for, rear end collisions. This study included an analysis of five years of police-reported crash data, an analysis of a sample of rear end crashes investigated as part of the CASR metropolitan in-depth crash study, and a literature review concerned with countermeasures for rear end crashes. The results of the analysis of the mass data on police-reported crashes and the in-depth crash investigation were consistent, with most rear end crashes occurring on straight, level roads and in clear weather conditions. Both analyses also revealed that drivers of striking vehicles were more likely to be young and male than drivers of the vehicles they struck. This is consistent with notions that young, male drivers represent a problematic group of drivers who are often crash-involved and also tend to be responsible for their crashes. Rear end crashes, in this respect, are typical of crashes in general. Injuries resulting from rear end crashes tended to be of low severity, and the in-depth study revealed that occupants of struck vehicles were more likely to require hospital treatment than occupants of striking vehicles. Factors that increase the likelihood of the occurrence of rear end collisions include higher traffic density (i.e. peak hour traffic; arterial roads), the presence of an intersection, and the presence of a right turning vehicle. These factors are related to rear end crashes because they increase the likelihood of conflict with slowing or stationary vehicles on the road. There are a number of countermeasures to reduce rear end crashes involving stationary, right turning vehicles. Where intersections feature a high frequency of rear end collisions with right turning vehicles, possible countermeasures include: relocation of the right turn to a different intersection, provision of a right turn only lane, increasing the storage capacity of the right turn lane so that turning vehicles are not forced to queue in adjacent through lanes, and increasing the duration of right turn arrows. The sample of rear end crashes investigated in the in-depth study included cases in which a vehicle was waiting to turn right from an arterial road without the benefit of a designated right turn only lane, and also included a case in which the capacity of the right turn lane was insufficient to cope with the number of vehicles waiting to turn right, resulting in a vehicle protruding into the through lane and being struck in the rear. There were also a number of crashes in which a vehicle was struck when waiting to turn right from a single lane road that did not allow through traffic to pass on the left. For the latter crashes, available engineering solutions are likely to be prohibitively expensive, unless traffic volumes satisfy the requirements for a major upgrade of the road, as was the case for the road in one of the crashes investigated. Such crashes may need to be addressed using countermeasures for inadequate allocation of attention (see below). Countermeasures are also available for left turning traffic at intersections. Slip lanes that make turning simpler can be introduced, enabling left turning traffic to turn into the adjoining road prior to merging with traffic, or a larger angle between the left turn lane and adjoining road can be used, enabling better visibility of traffic to aid the determination of gap acceptance. There was one crash in the in-depth study involving a left turning vehicle being struck from behind. The striking driver moved in response to a gap in the traffic on the adjoining road in anticipation of the struck vehicle turning. If the left turn had been simpler, the struck vehicle may have been able to turn at this point rather than remaining stationary, although inadequate allocation of attention on the part of the striking driver was still the prime determining factor of the crash. Another factor that can increase the likelihood of rear end collisions is a parked vehicle by the side of the road. Clearways and parking restrictions on the approach to intersections are useful because they enhance the visibility of the intersection and other traffic, and reduce obstacles in the vicinity of the intersection that could cause vehicles to stop. The in-depth study included three cases in which legally parked vehicles may have contributed to the CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes iii

4 occurrence of a rear end collision. It is also important to note that both the Traffic Accident Reporting Systems (TARS) analysis and the in-depth study analysis excluded cases where the struck vehicle was parked (as such crashes are often classified as hit parked vehicle rather than rear end collision ). In the in-depth study, seven of the original sample of 47 cases classified as rear end crashes involved collisions into the rear of parked vehicles. Relatively few rear end collisions in the in-depth study were the result of the restriction of driver vision caused by curved roads. This is consistent with the small percentage of such crashes that occur on curved roads in South Australia, as seen in the analysis of data on police-reported crashes. This low frequency of rear end crashes on curved roads is likely to be due to relative paucity of curved roads in metropolitan Adelaide. Nonetheless, the literature suggests that where intersections are present shortly after a curve in the road, it would be useful for drivers to be warned by appropriate signs of the possibility of queued stationary traffic following the curve. Also, relatively few rear end crashes in the in-depth study were associated with wet weather, as was the case with the police-reported crashes included in the TARS analysis, This would suggest that relatively few of the crashes would have been avoided, or their severity reduced, by skid resistance treatment of the road surface. Skid resistance treatments, however, may still prove cost-beneficial in South Australia if applied to roads with high crash rates, especially if such roads have a high ratio of wet to dry weather crashes or are characterised by a marked down slope. Turning to driver-related factors, inadequate allocation of attention was found in the in-depth crash study to be a frequent contributor to rear end crash causation, and may have been underestimated in the results, given that interviews in which attentional issues were explored were not possible with all crash participants. Inadequate allocation of attention could be divided into four different types: cases in which drivers were not sufficiently focused on the driving task; cases in which drivers were distracted from the driving task by objects or events either in or outside the vehicle; cases in which the drivers were unable to adequately divide their attention between two or more driving-related tasks; and cases in which drivers were unable to adequately allocate their attention to appropriate aspects of the road and traffic environment when changing lanes. In order to combat the inadequate allocation of attention of drivers, the necessary countermeasure would be the installation in vehicles of collision avoidance systems. Such systems typically combine adaptive cruise control, which slows the vehicle automatically in response to the presence of slower vehicles ahead, and devices that actively alert the driver to the need to apply heavier braking to avoid a collision. Early studies of prototype collision avoidance systems have revealed that they are capable of providing useful early warnings to drivers of the need to take evasive action to avoid collisions. However, it is necessary to examine the way drivers interact with them in real-world settings before being certain that they can provide cost-effective reductions in levels of crash involvement. Specifically, it needs to be assessed whether drivers begin to disregard the collision warnings after a series of nuisance alarms. The literature also suggests the advantages of increasing the conspicuity of the rear of vehicles to decrease the likelihood of rear end collisions. Few crashes in the in-depth study were attended at night, and none of those occurring during the day was clearly related to the low conspicuity of the rear of the struck vehicle. Although this may mean that low conspicuity is not a common factor in rear end crashes, there are likely to be some such crashes in which it is. The use of specially designed lights on the rear of vehicles to warn following drivers that they are too close or closing too quickly may prove useful, by both increasing conspicuity and combating the inattention of following drivers, although work on these projects is in the early stages only. Finally, a number of the rear end collisions investigated in the in-depth study were associated with medical conditions and/or drug use on the part of the driver of the striking vehicle. Although these crashes also involved inadequate allocation of attention to the iv CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

5 driving task, it is unclear whether collision avoidance systems would have been sufficient to prevent their occurrence. These cases highlight the importance of the application of medical fitness to drive guidelines (Austroads, 2001) to prevent people driving when their condition is incompatible with the safe operation of a motor vehicle. In summary, this report has provided a detailed account of the nature of rear end collisions, using both mass data on police-reported crashes and the information collected in in-depth metropolitan crash investigations. The most common factors contributing to these types of crashes are the lack of protection for right turning vehicles from following traffic and the inadequate allocation of attention by drivers to the driving task. Countermeasures are available for both of these contributing factors. Also, although not directly addressed in this report, it needs to be borne in mind that countermeasures that reduce traffic congestion would also provide major reductions in rear end collisions. CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes v

6 Contents 1 Introduction TARS analysis Data source Results Comparing rear end crashes with other crashes Rear end crash-involved drivers by crash responsibility Summary In-depth crash analysis Introduction Method Results: General Day of week Time of day Road characteristics Weather and lighting characteristics Crash injury severity Vehicle type Movement of the struck vehicles Age and sex of the drivers/riders Licence status of drivers/riders Seatbelt use Familiarity with the road Previous involvement in road crashes Previous involvement in rear end crashes Results: Contributing factors to rear end crashes Inadequate allocation of attention No designated right turn lanes Health issues of drivers of striking vehicles Parking on arterial roads Unexpected events on the road Miscellaneous infrastructure issues Summary Literature review Road-based countermeasures Road design Pavement skid resistance Vehicle-based countermeasures Vehicle conspicuity Collision avoidance systems Summary and conclusions Overall summary and conclusions Acknowledgements References vi CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

7 1 Introduction Rear end crashes are one of the most common crash types in South Australia and are known to generate a large number of whiplash injuries and, as a consequence, costly Compulsory Third Party (CTP) claims. For these reasons, there is value in understanding more about the characteristics of rear end crashes in South Australia. To this end, CASR have extracted data from the Traffic Accident Reporting System (TARS), consisting of police reports on crashes, and data files compiled from our in-depth investigation of metropolitan road crashes in Adelaide. TARS and in-depth crash investigation data provide complementary information regarding the nature of rear end crashes and are analysed in Sections 2 and 3, respectively. In addition, literature pertaining to rear end crashes has been reviewed, in order to identify means by which the frequency of rear end crashes can be reduced. Road-based and vehiclebased countermeasures for rear end crashes are discussed in Section 4. CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 1

8 2 TARS analysis This section analyses South Australian police-reported rear end crash data in an attempt to characterise this type of crash. Five years of data were used and analyses focused on the circumstances of the crash and characteristics of the drivers involved. 2.1 Data source The Traffic Accident Reporting System (TARS) database is maintained by the South Australian Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (DTEI) and is based on crashes reported to the police. It represents the best available data on the occurrence of road crashes in South Australia, having, at the time of writing, complete data for crashes from 1981 to June For the current analysis, casualty crashes for the years 1998 to 2002 inclusive, as recorded in TARS, were analysed as a group. These years were chosen because the property damage limit for property damage only crashes was raised in 2003 to $3,000 (from $1,000 as specified for the years ). Note that the TARS data as supplied to the Centre in July 2005 were used. TARS is being constantly updated so re-running the analyses presented here on a different version of the TARS data may produce slightly different results. The total number of crashes for these five years was 203,140. Of these, 67,693 (33%) were classified as rear end crashes. The first part of the analysis (Section 2.2.1) is concerned with all crash types, comparing those, which were classified as rear end crashes with all other crashes. This section excludes cases featuring a number of unit types (pedal cycle, railway vehicle, tram, small wheel vehicle, tree, traffic signal pole, bridge, guard rail, sign post, Stobie pole, other pole, pedestrian in car park, pedestrian on road, ridden animal, animal drawn vehicle, domestic animal - not ridden, wild animal, other fixed obstruction, other). Furthermore, crashes classified as rear end collisions but which featured less than two motor vehicles were also excluded. Of the original 67,693 crashes, 422 were thus excluded (216 featuring excluded unit types and 206 featuring less than two vehicles). Finally, crashes were also excluded if they involved parked vehicles, vehicles exiting a parking space, or vehicles that were reversing. This gave a total number of rear end crashes in the analysis of 61,024, and a comparison group of 142,116 other crashes. The second section (Section 2.2.2) provides an analysis of the rear end crash sample only and involves a comparison of the vehicles and drivers responsible for the crash with those not responsible. Efforts were made to only include cases in this sample for which the responsible vehicle was the striking (i.e. rear) vehicle, in order to be able to compare the striking vehicle with the struck (i.e. front) vehicle. The method for excluding other cases is provided prior to the results of this analysis in Section Results Comparing rear end crashes with other crashes This section provides a comparison of the rear end crashes with other types of crashes, with regard to a number of variables. These crash-related variables are: geographical area, hour of the day, day of the week, road geometry, wetness of the road, presence of rain, lighting conditions, crash injury severity, traffic control, road vertical alignment, and road horizontal alignment. The relationships between these variables and rear end crashes were explored to determine if there were any common characteristics of the sample of rear end crashes that differentiated them from other crash types. 2 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

9 GEOGRAPHICAL AREA The geographical areas defined in the TARS database are City (inner Adelaide), Metropolitan (rest of Adelaide) and Country (outside Adelaide). The number of rear end and other crashes occurring in these areas are shown in Table 2.1. Table 2.1 Crash type by geographical area Geographical area Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Metropolitan 51, , City 6,412 11, Country 3,527 30, Total 61, , Just over 10 percent of the rear end crashes occurred in the city, 84 percent in the metropolitan area and only six percent in the country. Other crash types were similarly most likely to occur in the metropolitan area but, unlike rear end crashes, other crash types were more likely to occur in country areas than in inner Adelaide. Expressed another way, rear end crashes comprised 36 percent of all city crashes and 34 percent of all metropolitan area crashes but only 10 percent of country crashes. The proportions of all crashes that occurred in the city, metropolitan area and the country were nine percent, 74 percent and 17 percent, respectively. HOUR OF CRASH Figure 2.1 allows for a comparison of rear end crashes with other crashes, with reference to when they occurred during the day. It can be seen in Figure 2.1 that rear end crash frequencies followed the pattern of all crashes, except for higher peaks from 8am to 9am and from 3pm to 6pm, and fewer occurring between 7pm and 7am. The peaks therefore occurred at the times of peak traffic volumes Rear End Crashes Other Crashes Percentage of crashes DAY OF WEEK 0:00 1:00 2:00 3:00 4:00 5:00 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 Hour of crash (24 hour clock) Figure 2.1 Hour of crash for rear end and all other crashes 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 Table 2.2 provides details of the day of week on which different crash types occurred. It can be seen that the frequency of rear end crashes was greater during the weekdays, rising steadily from 14 percent of rear end crashes occurring on Mondays to a peak of 18 percent CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 3

10 on Fridays. Compared with other crash types, rear end crashes appear to have been underrepresented on weekends. Table 2.2 Crash type by day of week Day of week Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Monday 8,616 18, Tuesday 9,365 19, Wednesday 9,921 20, Thursday 10,760 22, Friday 11,051 24, Saturday 6,884 20, Sunday 4,427 15, Total 61, , ROAD LAYOUT Table 2.3 shows the number of crashes of different types occurring at sites characterised by different types of road layout. Road layouts classified in the Other category include Y- junctions, pedestrian crossings, freeways, rail crossings, interchanges, on and off ramps, cross overs and one-way roads. Rear end crashes appear to have been over-represented at, or near, cross roads, and on divided roads. They were correspondingly under-represented on undivided roads. Table 2.3 Crash type by road layout Road layout Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Cross road 19,761 25, Divided road 18,489 22, T-junction 14,829 28, Undivided road 4,769 42, Multiple 1,301 1, Other 1,875 20, Total 61, , ROAD WETNESS Table 2.4 shows the number of crashes of different types that occurred on wet or dry roads. It appears from the Table that road wetness did not greatly affect the relative frequency of rear end crashes compared with other crash types. Table 2.4 Crash type by road wetness Road wetness Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Dry 52, , Wet 8,165 18, Total 61, , PRESENCE OF RAIN Table 2.5 shows the number of crashes of different types that occurred when it was raining and when it was not. Reflecting the findings for road wetness, the Table below shows that the presence of rain had no significant effect on rear end crash numbers relative to other crash types. There was one crash for which weather conditions were unknown. 4 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

11 Table 2.5 Crash type by presence of rain Presence of rain Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Not raining 55, , Raining 5,304 12, Total 61, ,115* * For one other crash, the presence or not of rain was unknown LIGHTING CONDITIONS The proportion of crashes of different types that occurred in the three categories of lighting conditions (daylight, night, dawn/dusk) is shown in Table 2.6. It can be seen that rear end crashes were over-represented during daylight hours and under-represented at night. Table 2.6 Crash type by lighting conditions Lighting conditions Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Daylight 52, , Night 6,889 32, Dawn or dusk 1,488 3, Total 61, ,115* * For one other crash, the lighting conditions were unknown CRASH INJURY SEVERITY Crash injury severity is measured by the highest level of injury sustained by any of the crash participants. Table 2.7 shows that rear end crashes tended to result in low injury severity, with an under-representation of crashes requiring hospital treatment or admission of crash participants, and an under-representation of fatal crashes. Also of note was that the percentages of property damage only crashes were about the same for the two groups of crashes. Table 2.7 Crash type by crash injury severity Crash injury severity Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Property damage only 50, , Treated by doctor 7,011 6, Treated by hospital 3,228 13, Admitted to hospital 454 5, Fatal Total 61, , TRAFFIC CONTROL Table 2.8 shows the traffic controls present at the site for the two sets of crashes. The main differences between rear end crashes and other crash types was the under-representation of rear end crashes in situations without any traffic control devices, and the overrepresentation of rear end crashes at sites controlled by traffic signals. CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 5

12 Table 2.8 Crash type by traffic control Type of traffic control Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) No control 34, , Traffic signals 22,209 18, Roundabout 1,677 3, Stop sign 1,609 4, Give Way sign 1,257 5, Rail crossing Other Total 61, , ROAD VERTICAL ALIGNMENT Table 2.9 shows the vertical alignment of the roads at which the two sets of crashes occurred. It can be seen that rear end crashes were slightly over-represented on level roads and under-represented on slopes, crests and at the bottom of hills. Table 2.9 Crash type by road vertical alignment Vertical alignment Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Level 56, , Slope 3,384 12, Crest of hill 686 2, Bottom of hill 429 1, Unknown Total 61, , ROAD HORIZONTAL ALIGNMENT Table 2.10 shows the horizontal alignment of the roads at which the two sets of crashes occurred. Rear end crashes were over-represented on straight roads, and correspondingly under-represented on curved roads. Table 2.10 Crash type by road horizontal alignment Horizontal alignment Rear end crashes Other crashes Rear end (%) Other (%) Straight road 58, , Curved - view open 1,828 9, Curved - view obscured 487 5, Unknown Total 61, , Rear end crash-involved drivers by crash responsibility This section focuses only on the sample of rear end crashes, with comparisons made between the striking vehicles and the struck vehicles in cases for which the driver of the striking vehicle was responsible for the crash. The variables included in the analysis consist of vehicle type, driver sex, driver age and licence status. To limit the rear end sample to appropriate rear end cases in which the vehicle driven by the responsible driver was also the striking vehicle, a number of cases had to be excluded. 6 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

13 Table 2.11 Vehicle type by driver responsibility in rear end crashes Error type Rear end Other Rear end (%) Other (%) Inattention 45,011 41, Follow too closely 14, Change lanes to endanger 756 7, Overtake without due care 210 3, Excessive speed 118 1, DUI 117 1, Died sick or asleep at wheel 79 1, Brake failure Misjudgement 51 3, Vehicle fault 33 2, Dangerous driving Fail to give way 6 25, Insecure load Broken windscreen Disobey - traffic lights 1 3, Fail to keep left 1 3, Incorrect turn 1 1, Disobey - Give Way sign 0 3, Disobey - police signal Disobey - railway signal Disobey - Stop sign 0 2, Drunken pedestrian Fail to give way right Fail to stand 0 9, Incorrect or no signal Opening or closing door 0 1, Reverse without due care* 0 22, NA 153 5, Other None Total 61, , * Reverse without due care crashes all classified for analysis as Other type of crash The total rear end sample that was used in the previous section included 73.8 percent of cases in which the police-designated error was inattention' and 23.5 percent of cases in which the error was follow too closely (see Table 2.11). Change lanes to endanger (1.2%) was the next highest category of error. All other errors accounted for less than 1.5 percent of cases. Within the change lanes to endanger error group, the vehicle movements were investigated to determine whether the responsible vehicle was the striking or struck vehicle. For all except one of the cases in which the responsible vehicle error was change lanes to endanger, the vehicle s movement was swerving. For cases in which the non-responsible vehicle movement was stopped on carriageway, it was assumed that the responsible vehicle was striking. This was checked for approximately 10 percent of these cases and all of the randomly selected cases confirmed this assumption. For the non-responsible vehicle movement of straight ahead, half of the checked cases involved the responsible vehicle striking and half being struck but this portion only accounted for 0.75 percent of the total sample and so has not been excluded from the set. For cases in which the non-responsible vehicle movement was also swerving, the responsible vehicles were both striking and struck, but again this group was insignificant within the responsible vehicle sample (0.01%) and so these cases were not excluded. For all other cases of change lanes to endanger, it was checked that the responsible vehicle was the striking vehicle. Another error and non-responsible vehicle movement combination for which the responsible vehicle was not always the striking vehicle was the combination of fail to give way as the CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 7

14 error and straight ahead as the non-responsible vehicle movement. Although the responsible vehicle in these cases was not always the striking vehicle, these cases were left in the sample, as they comprised less than 0.01 percent of the responsible vehicles. The cases for which the responsible vehicle error was insecure load involved objects falling from the back of a truck or utility (a bail of hay, a 20 litre metal drum, and a car). In each case, the vehicles following the truck or utility stopped to avoid the item on the road and were struck by vehicles travelling behind them, the drivers of which were unaware of the obstruction. These cases have been excluded. Finally, to ensure that the striking and struck vehicles could be successfully identified, cases in this section were restricted to those involving only two appropriate units (see Section 2.1 for a list of inappropriate units). In cases in which there were more than two appropriate units, it could not be assumed that the first two units listed in the dataset included the striking vehicle and the vehicle it struck. The exclusion of the cases as described here resulted in a data set of 57,152 cases. For each of these cases, there was one striking and one struck vehicle. Characteristics of these vehicles and their drivers are compared in this section. VEHICLE TYPE Table 2.12 shows the number of different vehicle types involved in rear end crashes, according to whether they were the striking or struck vehicle in the crash. Although there is some evidence of an over-representation of trucks and semi-trailers among the striking vehicles group, the numbers are relatively small. Table 2.12 Vehicle type by driver responsibility in rear end crashes Vehicle type Striking Struck Striking (%) Struck (%) Car 38,635 41, Station wagon 7,654 7, Utility 2,704 2, Panel van 2,066 1, Truck 1, Taxi cab Semi trailer Motorcycle Omnibus Passenger van Other vehicle Unknown vehicle 3,345 2, Total 57,152 57, DRIVER SEX Male drivers accounted for 60 percent of the drivers of striking vehicles and 54 percent of the drivers of struck vehicles (see Table 2.13). This shows that males were overrepresented in rear end crashes, relative to females, and also shows a trend for males to be more likely to be responsible for their crashes. 8 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

15 Table 2.13 Driver sex by driver responsibility in rear end crashes Driver sex Striking Struck Striking (%) Struck (%) Male 34,501 30, Female 20,199 24, Unknown or other 2,452 1, Total 57,152 57, DRIVER AGE Figure 2.2 shows the percentage of drivers in different age groups who were in the striking or struck vehicles in the crash. Young drivers were the most likely to be in the striking vehicles in rear end crashes. The 20 to 24 age group was responsible for the highest percentage of crashes, followed by those aged under 20. Within the under 20 age group, there were 12 drivers under the age of 16 (the minimum age at which to obtain a learner s permit), seven of whom were recorded as being in the striking vehicle in the crash. Middleaged drivers (aged 35-59) were the least likely to be in the striking vehicle in the rear end crashes in which they were involved. Driver Age Percentage of crashes for each set of drivers < Age groups (years) Figure 2.2 Driver responsibility by age for rear end crashes Striking Struck LICENCE STATUS Table 2.14 shows the licence status of the drivers involved in rear end crashes, by crash responsibility. It can be seen that drivers with a full licence were under-represented among those who were the striking driver in their crashes, while provisional licence holders were over-represented in the striking driver group. Table 2.14 Driver licence type by driver responsibility in rear end crashes Driver licence status Striking Struck Striking (%) Struck (%) Full 37,463 45, Provisional 5,475 3, Learners Unlicensed Unknown/NA 13,934 8, Total 57,152 57, CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 9

16 2.3 Summary The analysis of five years of police-reported crash data has shown a number of differences between rear end crashes and other crash types. Rear end crashes are less likely to occur in country areas, at night, on weekends, and on undivided roads. They are also less likely to result in serious or fatal injuries. Rear end crashes are more likely to occur at or near cross roads, during peak traffic times, in daylight, on level roads rather than on slopes or at the bottom of hills, and on straight roads rather than curved roads. A number of the characteristics associated with the occurrence of rear end crashes reflect greater traffic density. Specifically, this explanation can account for the relatively lower number of rear end crashes in country areas, at night, on weekends, and on undivided roads, and for the relatively higher frequency of rear end crashes during peak traffic times and daylight hours. The greater frequency of rear end crashes at or near intersections is likely to be due to the types of traffic conflicts present at intersections. Approaching an intersection, one is more likely to encounter stationary or slowing traffic than when travelling on a midblock section of road. This over-representation of rear end crashes at intersections is likely to be the reason for the over-representation of rear end crashes at traffic signals, although the higher traffic density on roads featuring traffic signals would also be a contributing factor. It is interesting to note that rear end crashes are under-represented on curved roads (including curved roads causing a restriction of vision), on sloping roads and at the bottom of hills. This could be due to road engineering practices that aim not to place intersections at such sites. It could also be due to drivers being more attentive as they steer through a curved section of road. It is also interesting to note that wet roads and rain do not increase the likelihood of rear end crashes relative to other crash types. The analysis of TARS data also revealed that inattention is the error most commonly attributed by police to drivers responsible for rear end crashes, with following too closely the next most common. Excessive speed is rarely identified as a cause of rear end crashes (0.2%). However, this figure is likely to underestimate the occurrence of crashes involving excessive speed. This underestimation of the role of speed in crashes, which occurs for all crash types, is due to the difficulty inherent in reconstructing crash events to obtain a legally sustainable estimate of travelling speed before the crash. A final point to emerge from the comparison of rear end crashes with other crash types is that the former are under-represented with regard to serious or fatal injuries. Rear end crashes are more likely than other crash types to only result in injuries that can be treated adequately by a private doctor. With regard to comparisons between vehicles that were striking and those that were struck in rear end crashes, the main differences appear to be that striking vehicles are more likely to be driven by males, young drivers and drivers on provisional licences. This is consistent with notions that young, male drivers represent a problematic group of drivers who are often crash-involved and also tend to be responsible for their crashes (Williams & Shabanova, 2003). 10 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

17 3 In-depth crash analysis 3.1 Introduction Another means of examining rear end crashes is to use information collected through indepth crash investigations. Beginning in April 2002, CASR has been conducting an in-depth investigation of metropolitan road crashes from which an ambulance has transported at least one person. To the end of February 2005, 286 crashes have been investigated, 47 of which (16.4%) were rear end collisions. That this is an under-representation of rear end crashes relative to police-reported crashes discussed in the previous section is likely to be due to the requirement of ambulance transport for the in-depth study and the low levels of injury severity usually associated with rear end crashes. For the analysis that follows, nine of the 47 crashes were excluded. Seven were excluded because the struck vehicle was parked, and two were excluded because the striking vehicle was a pedal cycle. Information about the remaining 38 rear end crashes is presented in this section of the report, with the factors contributing to the causation of these crashes being discussed in detail. The ability to provide such detailed accounts of crash causation, not possible when using mass crash data such as that contained in TARS, is one of the main strengths of the in-depth crash methodology. 3.2 Method Road crashes eligible for inclusion in the metropolitan in-depth study were those occurring on public roads in the metropolitan area to which an ambulance was called and for which at least one person was transported to hospital. Notification of crashes was obtained by monitoring ambulance radio frequencies and also occurred through pager notification by the South Australian Ambulance Service. CASR staff members were available on call to attend crash scenes during the day five days per week and some evenings until midnight. These additional times were selected as on-call periods following an examination of the time of day distribution of calls for an ambulance to attend road crashes in the study area during the previous year. The on-call team attempted to reach the scene of the crash before the vehicles involved were moved. As we never requested, or desired, permission to exceed posted speed limits when travelling to a crash scene, it was not possible to achieve this aim in some cases. Occasionally, further investigation of a crash was abandoned if there was not sufficient evidence available at the scene. The information collected on each case included: photographs of the crash scene and vehicles involved audio-visual record of the crash scene in selected cases details of the road environment, including traffic control measures a site plan of the crash scene and vehicle movements in the crash details and measurements of the vehicles involved interviews with crash participants, witnesses and police information on the official police vehicle crash report, and injury data for crash participants who attended major metropolitan hospitals CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 11

18 3.3 Results: General This section provides details of the nature of the sample of rear end crashes investigated as part of the metropolitan in-depth crash study. Variables examined include day of week, time of day, speed limit zones, government authority responsible for the road, presence of median on the road, number of road lanes, weather conditions, crash injury severity, injury severity by seating position, vehicle type, vehicle age, movement of struck vehicles, driver age, driver sex, licence status of drivers, seatbelt use, familiarity with the road, previous involvement of drivers in crashes, and previous involvement in rear end crashes. Following this background information on the crashes investigated, Section 3.4 provides an examination of the factors contributing to the causation of the crashes Day of week Table 3.1 shows the day of week distribution of rear end crashes investigated during the study. The crashes investigated were not representative of day of week of rear end crashes in general, with weekend days unrepresented, as a consequence of the distribution of oncall times. Table 3.1 Rear end crashes investigated by day of week Day of week Number Percent Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total Time of day Table 3.2 shows the time of day distribution of the rear end crashes investigated in the study. Due, again, to the distribution of on-call times by time of day, an under representation of crashes between 6pm and 6am is apparent in the study sample. Table 3.2 Rear end crashes investigated by time of day Time of day Number Percent Total Road characteristics In most of these rear end collisions (82%), the speed limit at the site was 60 km/h. There were two collisions at sites where the speed limit was 50 km/h and four where the speed limit was 70 km/h or more. One rear end collision occurred at a site where road works were in progress, with a speed limit of 25 km/h (Table 3.3). 12 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

19 Table 3.3 Rear end crashes investigated by speed limit zone Speed limit (km/h) Number Percent Total Most of the rear-end crashes in this study (87%) occurred on main roads under the control of the Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (DTEI). The remaining crashes were divided between roads under the control of the Adelaide City Council or other Local Government Authorities (Table 3.4). Table 3.4 Rear end crashes investigated by government authority responsible for the road Authority for the road Number Percent DTEI Adelaide City Council Other Local Govt. Authority Total Approximately three quarters (73.7%) of these rear end crashes occurred on roads having a raised median. The majority of crashes (79%) also occurred on roads with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction of travel (Table 3.5). All of the multi-lane roads were the responsibility of DTEI. Table 3.5 Rear end crashes investigated by number of traffic lanes Number of lanes Number Percent One lane each direction Two lanes each direction Three lanes each direction Four lanes each direction Total More than 80 percent of the rear end crashes occurred on roads where the vertical alignment was level (see Table 3.6). With regard to horizontal alignment, close to 90 percent of the crashes occurred on straight roads (see Table 3.7). Table 3.6 Rear end crashes investigated by vertical alignment Vertical alignment Number Percent Level Slope up Slope down Crest Total CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 13

20 Table 3.7 Rear end crashes investigated by horizontal alignment Horizontal alignment Number Percent Straight Left bend Right bend Total Weather and lighting characteristics Due to the on-call times for crash investigation, the majority (95%) of rear end crashes investigated occurred during daylight hours. Two crashes were investigated at night. In both of these crashes, the carriageway was illuminated by street lights. Table 3.8 shows the prevailing weather conditions noted by at-scene crash investigators. Rain was not a common feature of the rear end crashes investigated. Table 3.8 Rear end crashes investigated by weather conditions Weather conditions Number Percent Fine Overcast Raining Windy Total Crash injury severity There were 102 crash participants involved in the 38 rear end crashes investigated. The crash participants consisted of 74 drivers (36 striking, 38 struck), two motorcycle riders (both striking) and 26 vehicle passengers (12 striking, 14 struck). The maximum level of injury severity for crash participants resulting from rear end collisions, in terms of treatment required, was most commonly hospital treatment, with a total of 45 percent of vehicle drivers, riders or passengers being transported by ambulance to hospital. The average length of time in hospital for treatment was 3.4 hours, ranging between a minimum of less than one hour to a maximum of five hours. Only one vehicle occupant required hospital admission as a result of involvement in a rear end collision. In this case, the centre rear seat passenger of a striking vehicle was admitted and hospitalised for 15 days. This vehicle occupant s hospital admission was the result of a bowel perforation most likely caused by the centre lap belt. Forty three percent of crash participants were uninjured. The injury severity for all crash participants, divided into those occupying struck or striking vehicles is shown in Table 3.9. It can be seen that the occupants of struck vehicles were more likely to require hospital treatment (58%) than the occupants of striking vehicles (34%). Table 3.9 Rear end crash participants by crash injury severity Crash injury severity Striking Striking % Struck Struck % Fatal Admitted to hospital Treated at hospital Treated by doctor/minor No injury Total CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

21 The information provided in Table 3.9 can be further categorised according to seating position (Table 3.10). It can be seen that over half of the vehicle occupants requiring hospital treatment were the drivers of struck vehicles. Table 3.10 Rear end crash participants by crash injury severity Occupant position Admitted Hospital Treated Doctor/minor No injury Striking: Driver/rider Left front passenger Left rear passenger Centre rear passenger Right rear passenger Total Struck: Driver Left front passenger Left rear passenger Centre rear passenger Right rear passenger Total Overall total The most common injury types that led crash participants to seek medical treatment at a hospital were neck pain or headache. Although these injury types were seen across struck and striking vehicle occupants, they were more common among those in struck vehicles. Eighteen drivers and three passengers of struck vehicles sought medical treatment for neck pain or headache, compared to only two drivers and three vehicle occupants of striking vehicles. Chest or shoulder pain that was associated with seatbelt usage was the next most common injury type for participants involved in rear end collisions. This type of injury was evenly distributed between striking vehicle and struck vehicle occupants. The two motorcycle riders sustained abrasions and contusions resulting from contact with the ground after the initial impact Vehicle type Of struck vehicles, 90 percent were cars or car derivatives. Less than 66 percent of striking vehicles were car derivatives, however, with greater involvement of large trucks, passenger buses and motorcycles than was the case among struck vehicles (see Table 3.11). There was little difference in vehicle age between struck or striking vehicles. The median age of striking vehicles was 11.5 years and that of struck vehicles was 12.5 years. The median age for vehicles on South Australian roads is 11.6 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes 15

22 Table 3.11 Vehicle types involved in the rear end crashes investigated Vehicle type Striking vehicle Struck vehicle Striking (%) Struck (%) Car or car derivative* SUV Van Small truck Large truck Bus Motorcycle Total * Sedans, hatches, station wagons Movement of the struck vehicles Thirty-five of the struck vehicles in this study (92.1%) were stationary at the time of being struck. In 15 of these cases, the struck vehicle was stationary at a signalised intersection. Although the majority of these crashes occurred within close proximity to the intersection, approximately one third of the struck vehicles were stopped more than 100 metres away from the intersection due to traffic congestion, the furthest distance being approximately 400 metres. In nine other cases, the struck vehicle had become stationary on a major road while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before undertaking a right hand turn into another road. In one case, the struck vehicle had moved through a signalised intersection but became stationary in response to traffic congestion ahead. Other reasons for struck vehicles becoming stationary included: a long line of congested traffic ahead without the presence of a signalised intersection, stopping at a pedestrian-activated crossing, and one case where the struck vehicle was waiting in a Turn Left with Care lane. Additionally, there were three cases in which vehicles became stationary due to unexpected events ahead of them that required that they stop. There were only three cases in which the struck vehicles were moving at the time of the rear-end collision. In each of these cases, the vehicle was travelling straight ahead, rather than turning, when it was struck from behind by a faster moving vehicle Age and sex of the drivers/riders Clear differences were seen in the sex and age characteristics of the drivers of striking vehicles when compared with drivers of vehicles that were struck. Although the sex distribution of drivers in struck vehicles was close to being evenly divided between males (47%) and females (53%), the driver of a striking vehicle was more than twice as likely to have been male (71%) rather than female (29%). The age distribution of drivers revealed a greater likelihood of being involved in a rear-end crash as a striking driver when young. Half of all striking drivers were aged between 16 and 35. For the drivers of struck vehicles, drivers in this age group only accounted for 29 percent. Drivers aged 25 years or less represented more than 26 percent of drivers of striking vehicles but only 13 percent of struck drivers. Drivers over the age of 55 years were twice as likely to have been driving a struck vehicle rather than a striking vehicle. Table 3.12 shows the age distributions of drivers of striking vehicles and drivers of struck vehicles. 16 CASR Road Safety Research Report Rear end crashes

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